Valve Introduces Experimental Features For Sifting Through Steam's Massive Storefront

Valve Introduces Experimental Features For Sifting Through Steam's Massive Storefront

It might get a little easier to find your diamond in the rough.

There are a lot of games on Steam. The idea of sifting through them all to find diamonds in the rough is daunting, but three new experimental tools launched by Valve today could make it a little more feasible.

Dubbed the Steam Labs, Valve's three tools take different but somewhat harmonious approaches to new game curation. The first is Micro Trailers, which automatically generates short, looping trailers-essentially GIFs-of games on Steam designed to quickly inform the viewer. It's essentially the same function that a Twitter bot of the same name performs (and it looks like that team is working with Valve on this). It's a helpful tool, one that's existed in the past but now has more support and visibility on it to hone and craft the trailer-scraper even further.

The second experiment is the Interactive Recommender. It requires logging into your Steam account, but it uses your hours and games played to deliver a smattering of recommended games. You can filter this down further using sliders like popularity, how recently the game was released, and including (or excluding) tags.

Even from the outset, its suggestions were fairly spot on. The Interactive Recommender served me several games I own and love on other platforms that aren't Steam, like Life is Strange, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Tales from the Borderlands, and Oxenfree. These are fairly popular games and frequent suggestions though, and it took sliding some knobs to find games I hadn't seen before. It's effective, but I wonder how effective at actually sifting for lesser known titles.

The Automatic Show does a good job of giving you a quick overview, though some snippets sold it better than others. | Eric Van Allen/USG, Valve

Experiment number three is the most interesting one: an automatic show, machine-generated to showcase the latest and most popular Steam games every day. It compiles paneled, bite-sized selections of 30 games from the New and Popular list into one 25-minute video. Valve also included a human VO version that previews a few games in greater detail in a minute and a half using a computer-generated script, and says they're working on a text-to-speech capability to automate that portion as well.

The Automatic Show could expand out to genres and labels as well, like regional games, indie collections, role-playing games, or more. Additional motion graphics that include elements like scores from games sites could appear too. This automation is genuinely cool and provides a real, practical solution, but it's still evolving.

These tools are impressive, and could hopefully help to make digging for gems hiding in the pile of daily Steam releases a much easier task. With competition heating up from other storefronts, Steam could make good use of these features to keep its buyer base on the platform.

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Eric Van Allen

News Editor

Eric is a writer and Texan. He's a former contributor to sites including Compete, Polygon, Waypoint, and the Washington Post. He loves competitive games, live music, and travel.

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